tv Charlie Rose WHUT November 3, 2010 5:00am-6:00am EST
>> rose: welcome to our program. to want, onn the eve of midterm elections, charlie cook of the cook political report. >> the preside was just single minded in wanting to go for being systemic health care reform when the public was screaming for more of a focus on the economy. so i think that's where he... that's where i think he personally should take some blame is the resistance to going to incremental change or going to plan "b" and going back on to the economy sooner. >> rose: and al hunt of bloomberg news. >> people don't like republicans. that nbc/"wall street journal" poll today showed that by about eight points they had a negative rating, even more unfavorable
than democrats. and secondly there are great divisions within the republican party. john boehner and mitch mcconnell want to mold some kind of conservative agenda. some of the tea party types coming to washington want to blow up government and that tension and how it's reconcile willed really be fascinating to watch. >> rose: and we conclude with the lessons from the yemen story from david ignatius and mark mazzetti. >> what this plot and its discovery shows you is that intelligence is really the best and sometimes the only hope of dealing with these plots. that the saudis not... had the saud not had some kind of source that was able to tip them off and then the saudi intelligence promptly notified the united states and others, this plot might have gone forward. >> for the last two years, the c.i.a. has been pretty much bludgeoning the organization in pakistan with this escalation in drone strikes and they think
that they've done a pretty good job of crippling leadership there and all of a sudden we're hearing more about yemen and a group that's increasing in power and sophistication and so then they have to sort of worry about shifting resources to yemen. >> rose: and finally, an appreciation of ted sorensen, an excerpt from one of the five conversations we had on this program. >> at heart, j.f.k. was a pragmatist. he wanted to know what would work, what would solve the problems, what would be accepted by the voters, the rulers, whomever. allies, adversaries. but at the same time, with his speeches just to once again emphasize their importance, he talked about the dreams we all have of making this a better country and a more peaceful world and that's the romantic
part. >> rose: politics and yemen next maybe you want school kids to have more exposure to the arts. maybe you want to provide meals for the needy. or maybe you want to help when the unexpected happens. whatever you want to do, members project from american express can help you take the first step. vote, volunteer, or donate for the causes you believe in at membersproject.com. take charge of making a difference.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: americans go to the polls in a matter of hours for the 2010 midterm elections. all indications show this may be a wave election for the republics who would be poised to retake the house. democrats are cautiously optimistic that they will hold on to the senate by a narrow margin. but the outcome will depend on tight races in colorado, california, illinois, washington west virginia, nevada, alaska, and ohio. the g.o.p. is also expected to make gains in the gubernatorial races, the struggling economy and jobs continue to be the most important issues for voters. unemployment is still at a high and a troubling deficit dominates the national debate. polls show that independents have swung towards the republicans. democrats are also suffering from the enthusiasm gap while
the republicans have benefited from the energy of the tea party. joining me now from washington is charlie cook of the cook political report. he is the one we all turn to ahead of this game to see how it's going on and i am pleased to have him on this program. welcome. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: what define this is election? >> i think it's a very, very fickle electorate. they voted for change. their idea of change and i think what the president and the democratic congress had seemed to be different. i think there's also a real desire as the economy deteriorated last year and as unemployment went up they wanted a laser beam like focus, to use bill clinton's term, on the economy. and they got first cap and trade and then health care reform which were two things i think that they would have loved to have had a conversati about the economy would be better but they were saying, you know, we want to focus on the economy. and then to a certain extent it was ideological and substantive. just independents becoming more
skeptical about government and conservatives coming out of their slumber from '06 and '08 and becoming truly enraged by all that was getting done in washington. >> rose: does it reach tidal proportions? is this a wave election? >> yes, it is. but it's a little bit of a bifurcat election, i think. on the hse side this has become anationalized election. it's basically a parliamentary election with so many voters. they're either voting for the red team or the blue team. but in the senate and the governors' races, it's a very big win or will be for republicans but it's not quite as proportional. we're talking about maybe a net gain of six or eight for republicans in the gubernatorial race and senate races which is a lot. that's a huge number. but in the house, you know, we're being conservative, frankly, at saying 50 to 60 because it could go a heck of a lot higher than that.
we're just seeing numbers in places that we've never see before. >> rose: are they angry or are they hurting or are they both? >> well, i think the conservatives and republicans are angry. the inspects are disillusioned. they're frustrated about the economy. i think they were looking for... they were looking for a change. they voted for change in the way washington worked but they weren't thinking, i think, along the lines of ideological change so much in 2008. they were looking for... they were looking for more bipartisan and you can say that republicans may be just as guilty as democrats are of the lack of bipartisan efforts. but they are rejecting the party that's in power. >> rose: how much does the president have to blame? >> well, i think there's a certain level that would have happened no matter what.
democrats were at unsustainably high levels. and just with the economy where it was, any party that had a... the presidency, the house, the senate, the majority of the governorships and state legislative seat would have had a good bit of losses on top of that. but to me it's when you got into the summer of 2009 and unemployment hit 9% for the third consecutive month where you're supposed to get, say, 8.2 that's probably when there was a houston we have a problem moment and i think the president got warned by a lot of advisors you need to get this thing out of the way, get health care out of the way and get back on the economy quick and i think the president was just single minded in wanting to go for big systemic health care reform when the public was screaming for more of a focus on the economy. so i think that's where he... that's where i think he personally should take some blame is the resistance to going
to incremental change or going to plan "b" and going back on to the economy sooner. >> rose: if the president heard everything you just said, do you think he would agree and he would understand or is he still still believing that there's something else at play and it's not his fault? >> well, my hunch is that he would believe... he would say that this isn't his fault, that he was elected to do big systemic change and transformational change and that's what he's here to do and if that means he's a one-term president, so be it. and i think he's being honest with that. but i think if you sort of look back at the general election campaign-- and i think presidents of both parties have been guilty of this-- they run towards the center in the general election and then get elected and pivot off. and, you know, remember george w. bush was running on compassionate conservatism-- whatever that meant-- and instead then the people get in and they turn sharply to the flanks out to the wicks and then
get surprised in a midterm election. although that didn't happen two years into the bush administration because of 9/11. but i think there was... the focus in 2008 wasn't so ideological and i think people... some people, some independents were surprised with the direction and the degree that this went. >> rose: when you look at the individual races, where does nevada stand today in the senate race with harry reid? >> well, it's very, very close, within a point or two. and you would... harry reid has a phenomenal... they've invested a lot of money on the ground and get out the vote, but you have to ask yourself, what are the statistical odds of getting reelected with a 14% unemployment in a state and with a job approval rating that low? frankly what i think is keeping harry reid in the hunt is the fact that "none of the above" is on the ballot and there are
multiple alternatives besides sharron angle so i don't think there's a chance in the world that harry reican get 46% or 48% of the vote. the question is how low can he drop and still win? how many of the votes are going to go into "none of the above" category. >> rose: and what about the senatorial race in alaska? >> i think it's going to be weeks before we know. i don't think... i mean, there's obviously a statistical chance that democrats could take advantage of the basically having two republican candidates in the field, but i don't think that's going to happen. i'm surprised at how well lisa murkowski is doing and i frankly think now that she's got a... the best chance of coming out on top and i would not have thought that because, frankly, i would have thought that anybody that was sound asleep on primary day would not have been able to put together the sophisticated effort necessary to win a write
in vote. >> rose: so what are republicans saying about that rates? what do they want? do they want murkowski to win or do they want mill to win? >> well, they want to hold the seat and either way is a hold and the one thing about whether you look at the democratic or republican senatorial committees or the house campaign committees is they're judged by seats gained and lost. there are generally no ideological litmus tests and i think they felt early on to be obligated to support the republican nominee whoever it was and joe miller won it fair and square. but i think as he became more problematic and as lisa murkowski who was actually a member of their leadership started coming back to life and roaring back and appearing stronger than ever, i think their view was "look, we don't care as long as it's a republican." and they just had to make sure that the democrat didn't win. >> rose: conventional wisdom in the senate race in california is
that barbara boxer is coming on stronger than might have imagined in the beginning? >> she is just a more tenacious, formidable fighter than i think a lot of us, frankly, gave her credit for and she's put together a first-rate campaign and i think republicans, you know, unlike megawhitman who was funding to the tune of $145 million of her own money, the governor's race... carly fiorina was not the republican nominee for the... was not a self-funder and she didn't put in bottomless pits of money. and i think barbara boxer had e financial ability and the position to get her message across better than carly fiorina did and was able to define fiorina before... >> rose: fiorina could define herself? >> exactly. >> rose: you mentioned money, that's the big story here. what's been the impact of cross roads and cross roads g.p.s. and these other groups that have
allowed the corporate donors to fund commercials but they can have nothing to do with the campaign itself? >> well, it's obviously leveled first leveled the playing field in the house of representatives and given republicans advantages in a lot of places. but i think republicans would argue that democrats exploited a lot of loopholes back in 2006/2008 and there were anonymous donations in both of those races and democrats exploited the law to the full extent possible in '06 and '08 and they're merely sor of... it's like an arms race and they're now taking it too a whole new level and a higher level. but, you know, i think we have to get passed the notion that there's good money and bad none. there are no virgins in this either way. and, you know, george soros... >> rose: there are no virgins in politics. >> yeah. i mean, the thing is whether it's the coke brothers from kansas or whether it's george
soros or peter lewis in some earlier years for democrats. it's... there's a lot of money floating around in here and each side it will take full advantage to the extent that they possibly can and democrats did a better job financially in '06 and '08. republicans are doing a much better job of that in 2010. >> rose: john boehner is obviously...-- if things go to form-- is the big winner here becominging speaker of the house. who else are big winners either in terms of individuals or ideas or movements? >> well, i think on the republicanr and kevin mccarthy and paul ryan. kevin mccarthy is a young member from the... was a member of the republican legislative leadership out in california. did an amazing job of recruiting candidates in places where they've never had candidates before. and paul ryan is like a one-man
think tank providing content for republican candidates and eric cantor was as well. and pete sessions and the republican congressional committee. i think they ended up doing a real good job, too, when all is said and done. and on the senate side john cornyn was a fabulous chairman of the republican senatorial committee. but the thing is, democrats... there was no failings on the part of the democratic house and senate committees at all. because they performed heroicly. frankly, as republicans did back in '06. but the things... thing is, when there's a tidal wave you can have the best strategists in the world and when there's an enormous wave hitting you, you can save a couple people here or there but you can't stop the wave. it's just too big. >> rose: one of the interesting things you didd is you watched in focus groups wal-mart moms. tell me about that and what it taught you. >> that was an amazing experience to watch, these three focus groups, philadelphia, st. louis and denver with women who
had children under 18 years of age or younger and they all shopped at wal-mart within the last month and the feeling of sort of abandonment from washington from our political leadership was astonishing. and first of all, you know, you and i live great lives, but, you know, the economic struggle that a lot of these people are facinging of just keeping a roof over their heads, i think five or six of them have had foreclosed homes. of having food on the table and clothes on their kids' backs. i mean, you know, this is... frugality is not a virtue with these folks, it's a necessity. and i had this one... i heard this one... you had democratic and republican pollsters overseeing this and they asked each of these wal-mart moms if elected officials in washington understood your lives, what would they do differently? how would their policies be different?
and they were blaming democrats and republicans i should add. and the thing is, what this one woman saids "i cannot imagine elected officials in washington understanding my life." and another one in a different focus group said "too bad this isn't like that t.v. show undercover boss where they could just come and live with us for a day or two and see what we're going through." because the thing is, they listen to the debates and the food fight shows and they listen to washington and they think what are these people... their debates, their arguments have very little relevance to our day to day lives. and it was really a... it was a remarkable experience to listen to these folks. it was a real reality check for me personally. >> rose: well, it also suggests... i mean, that's one of the things that has been argued about the president, that he never felt in his gut the pain of the people who were suffering and that if he'd understood that more he might very well have changed quicker. >> well, i think-- and i don't
want to put too much on the president here-- but to be honest... and i said earlier there are no virgins in the area of campaign finance. and the thing is, these elected officials... and i've given up on the idea of meaningful confer. but one of the problems is these folks, these folks, whether they're democrats or republicans they have to spend so much time raising money that the idea of just listening to people and sort of meeting... and not just at rallies. but when jimmy carter... you remember covering jimmy carter and he was sleeping in people's homes on their couches and living rooms in iowa. you know, my guess is-- and not that he was the most successful president we ever had-- but at least at the end of the campaign i think he probably had some feel for the lives of a lot of average and struggling people. and i think it would be very hard to get all the way through a two-year-long presidential race, whether you're a democrat
or republican, and have a real hard-wired connection to the struggles that a lot of these folks are... the struggles and concerns, whether they're liberal or conservative, that they have. it can be very hard. it's very troubling to me. >> rose: great story about roosevelt as the body was making its way from georgia to washington the man who was watching was crying and somebody said "did you know the president?" and he said "no, but the president knew me." >> that's exactly right. and we're losing that. and i have... itch no magic wand. i have no ide what we can do the kind of help enable elected officials, politicians, to sort of have a little bit more of a touch. because there's really more of a... it's like the food fights are just extending everywhere and everything sort of really bipolar, left/right. for the average people sitting in the middle they're... you
know, they're not seeing this as left/right. it's like who's... who understands my life and what i'm going through and what i'm concerned about? >> rose: somebody else said it ought to be about right and wrong not right and left. >> exactly. and, you know, the thing is there's real passion on the left and there's passion on the right but folks in the middle, they sort of... they have lives and they're not fascinated with this stuff, the left/right stuff every night. and, you know, they're helping their kids with their home work. i mean, hearing this one woman talking about making her kids lunch because they didn't have the money for the school lunch program and obviously they didn't qualify for the assistance. and that's just so ail dwron the lives of a lot of us that live in washington or new york. that it's... and i would say a lot of your viewers. this isn't the lives we live but
we have to understand that there are a lot of folks like that and there are people and they're conservatives out there-- and i'm related to a bunch of them-- that are very concerned with where this country is going. and i can't... you know, i don't always agree with 100% of what they say but i don't doubt their sincerity, that's for sure. >> rose: so what are you looking for early as an indication as to where the night's going? >> we're going to have some great signs by 10:00 in the evening. there's going to be a lot congressional races in indiana and kentucky and florida that are... that will be out there that will be good signs of whether this is... whether this is a huge election or not. 9:00 in the evening half the votes in those three states-- florida, indiana, kentucky-- will be counted or should be counted. then we've got massachusetts, new jersey, north carolina, tennessee, texas, and virginia. half the vote ought to be in by 10:00. so i think this is going to
be... you know, some of the networks are staying on until 3:00 in the morning. it's going to be weeks before we know anything in alaska and well into wednesday before we know anything on the west coast races but i think we'll have a flavor for the dimension of this before... you know, before the 11:30 news is off. >> rose: charlie, thank you very much. i hope we can come back after the results are in here and try to figure out where we are so i thank you very much. >> absolutely, charlie. it's an honor to be on your show. >> rose: charlie cook. back in a moment. stay with us. >> rose: al hunt joins me now from washington. he is executive editor of bloomberg news. he has been my senior partner in understanding politics and will again be this midterm election. i asked the question that i asked not long ago of him when we looked at the midterm elections which was is this going to be a wave election and you said at that time it could
even be a tsunami. so what does it look and smell like today on election eve? >> it smells more like a tsunami charlie. charlie cook, who preceded me, he's michaelangelo in these things. he knows it, i think right now he thinks it's bigger than he thought it was going to be. i think it will be stuning if the republicans don't control the house by a rather healthy margin and i think a week ago we would have said it's a long shot in the senate. still may be a minority shot but it's not much of a minority shot. i think they're probably going to pick up at least seven or eight and once you pick up sevenover eight you're not far from ten or 11. that's the math they taught us at wake forest. >> rose: (laughs) wake forest was always good in math. that's why they got all those good math students to come and play football or basketball. so what does it mean for the president and what does it mean for, let's assume, a republican
control of the house and a speaker... and john boehner as the new speaker? >> well, in the short term it's very bad news for obama on several fronts. he's always prided himself as a big-picture president. a reagan, a roosevelt type as oppose odd to the bite-sized presidencies of some others. there will be no big things he'll be able to do. he might be able to work a compromise on a few things like no child left behind, maybe some trade stuff. no major stimulus. and i think even more upsetting to some of the white house types will be that they will be under constant scrutiny, investigations, inquiries. so it's certainly a short-term bet. what affect does it have on 2012? i don't have the slightest idea. there will be other things that will probably have a greater effect but if history is any guide, it doesn't necessarily injure him for reelection. his camelot moment is certainly over. whether he is judged as a great, near great, or mediocre or
whatever kind of president will depend on the success of his financial regulatory reform, health care, whether he gets us out of these terrible economic doldrums that we've been in, what happens in afghanistan, so i think that's yet to be determined but i think that great sense of hope that as you correctly note was there just a short two years ago, that's certainly dissipated. >> rose: what are you looking at in this election? >> well, first, charlie whether the republicans control both houses or not really is important. that creates much more of a check rather than a balance, if you will. so we have to start by saying control of the senate really is terribly important. i think the other thing is it's not so much even what occurs on the night of november 2 but what happens in the days after that. the republican party is coming in on a wave, a tsunami, as we said a moment ago, but there's a couple important points to keep
in mind. they're coming in unlike almost any other insurgency that's won without pl being popular. people don't like republicans. that nbc/"wall street journal" poll today showed that by about eight points they had a negative rating, even more unfavorable than democrats and secondly there are great divisions within the republican party. john boehner and mitch monnell want to hold some kind of conservative agenda. some of the tea party types that are coming to washington want to blow up government. and that tension and how it's reconciled will really be fascinating to watch. >> rose: and could barack obama benefit from that because he now has the capacity to say "it's not my fault, it's the congress's fault"? >> yeah, i think he can a little bit. certainly clinton did, although i think that's exaggerated. i think clinton did so well in 1996 not so much because he was able to playoff the republican congress-- though he was-- but because there were tremendous economic conditions that real really i think are unlikely to
be replicated over the next two years. and i think the two gate things that happened to clinton after his 1994 debacle, one, the republicans overreached and shut down the government. my guess is john boehner and mitch mcconnell are too smart to repeat that mistake and secondedly oklahoma city tragedy and there's no way of knowing what tragedies might occur. so, i think, yeah, he can profit from it, but it's not necessarily a win-win situation for him because, as i say, some of the downsides are really, really severe. >> rose: what do you make of this latest campaign ploy where in a conversation with, i think, some hispanic voters or hispanic media the president made use of they should do something with respect to enemies and now john boehner is using that as part of his own closing speech to ms. audiences in ohio. >> oh, i think it's probably good politics on boehner's part.
i don't think it really is any kind of big deal. sarah palin had a more pejorative reference which i can't use on a family show like this about media opponents over the weekend that's what happens in political battles. i think obama's greater problem is not so much he says bad things or semibad things about republicans, it's that... peter baker wrote in the "new york times" the other day, there's a certain sense oflitism that is conveyed by this white house and that's something they're going have to correct after the drubbing they're going to take tomorrow night. >> rose: yeah, but that came up in the pennsylvania primary, remember? >> it came up two and a half years ago and they pretty much overcame it but i still think it's there. and i think that's... i think that's... i don't think most people are going to say "barack obama considers all republicans enemies." there's sort of a nixonian quality about him. i don't think that's a rap that will stick. but i think some of the other...
you know, this sense that he doesn't really identify with real people which, you're right, it's been there for a long time. i think that'sing? that is more problematic for him. >> rose: in the great sweep of political history, what will stand out in this campaign and this election tomorrow? >> well, one has to say that the tea party movement in america in 2010, i don't know at all if it's ephemeral, if it will be lasting, if it transforms american politics. i'm very skeptical that it will. but certainly it had a tremendous impact this year. and if the gains are as big as most people expect tomorrow, not only did the tea party people drive and propel the republican midterm victory, but they overturned the establishment in state after state, nevada and kentucky and colorado and alaska. and delaware. so it really has been a... we really haven't seen anything quite like this and, again, we'll have to... it remains to be seen what effect it has a year or two from mow.
maybe it will all backfire. but right now if you're a tea party type republican you have to be bringing out the champagne as well as the tea. >> rose: wt have you learned about what it is that makes the tea party what it is? >> again, just having talked to a few people but having... i think "businessweek" did an interesting cover on them a few weeks ago. it is clearly anger, it's frustration. there's an anti-government tide, i don't think it's driven much by social issues. i think foreign policy and national security is almost non-existence. i interviewed ken buck in colorado a few weeks ago who is one of the major tea party candidates this year and i asked him about afghanistan and he said "i'm against all timetables." okay, fine, that makes him a hawk. and he says "but boy we better not get into nation building." so that makes him a dove. it's really about the size of government. i think bailouts drive them crazy. i think there's a sense somehow that the taxpayers have been
fleeced and all kinds of vested interests have done well. some of that is right, some of that is dead wrong but i think that feeling is very real and i think when they come to washington and those people out there are supporting them, if the republican congress is not able to really slash spending, however unpopular that may be and reduce the size of government, there's going to be a great backlash from the rank-and-file. >> rose: john boehner has been saying that what he wanteds to do is not just be different than the democrats were but he's going to be different than the previous republican majority. when he says that, what does he mean? >> well, i think he's talking about spending to begin with and it will be interesting to see if they do away with all earmark which is, frankly, are symbolic. earmarks doesn't... they don't affect the federal deficit. but it's a symbolism that matter a lot to the tea party types. but the bigger tests will be two. the short-term test will be cutting spending. john boehner has pledged to cut basically $100 billion from
discretionary domestic spending. charlie, that's some big programs. pell grants or things of that sort which will be very unpopular and then even bigger tests a year or two or three out will be entitlements. what are you doing about entitlements? and that ice what the tea party people are saying? you've got to reduce the size of government. there's a lot of popular support for that until you start cutting programs. >> rose: what's interesting about this to me is that the deficit has become an issue. america's debt obligation has become a political issue. it used to be said nobody cares about it. >> well, it was the great ronald reagan line he didn't worry about it because it was big enough to take care of itself. >> rose: (laughs) >> and i think that sort of was the sense. i think, again, it's not people go home and say "my gosh, i worry about the size of the deficit." it's is symbolism of a government out of control. now it really is a symbolism of a society out of control. it's not just government debt or public debt, look at consumer debt. one of the things is... and i'm
not an economic expert, as you know, charles, but o of the things that's holding back this recovery is the fact that consumers, unlike 1991 or unlike 1982, consumeers are so idebt that it's hard for consumers to spend their way out of this economy. >> rose: so what does all this mean for the presidential election in 2012? >> this is a terrible copout but i don't think we can tell right now. because it depends on how obama handles it. if he's as clever as bill clinton was in 1994 that will certainly give him a tremendous leg up and depends on what happens to the republican party. there are people like charles rove who are running around saying gosh, if sarah palin's the nominee it will be a disaster for us. she's a big winner this election. i don't know how that's going to play out. so not to mention afghanistan or the economy. we don't have any idea what circumstances will be like but i think it's far too soon to count barack obama out. i think he's going to take a
terrible beating tomorrow night. i think it's going to be a very ruff year but if you could only bet one person, you had a pooshlgs you could only take one person who will be elected president in 2012, you would certainly take barack obama ahead of anybody else. >> rose: who comes out of this with some momentum as a presidential nominee? >> sarah palin. >> rose: she does? >> she does, sure. i mean, she's been the... she's been out front. she's despised by the establishment but if she decides to get in-- and i don't know if she is or not, she doesn't talk to me or anybody else in the media other than fox, i guess-- but if she decides to get in, she's going toe a real force. and if she isn't a nominee, she will have a say on who is. >> rose: what do you hear from nevada at the late moment? >> it's interesting, the republicans say i'm sorry, that train left the station a long time ago. democrats are far more optimistic than they were three days ago. about 68% of the people have
voted out there and they claim they've done all this big work and that basically it's going to tilt and harryeid is going to win by a hair. so i don't have... that and alaska. whatever happens in alaska. charlie cook who i always defer to and i have a slight disagreement. he thinks murkowski is a sure winner. i think the democrat conceivably could pull the one democratic upset tomorrow night. >> rose: we'll know tomorrow night, perhaps, although alaska will be reporting late i guess. >> it may be two weeks before we know about alaska. >> rose: al, thank you so much, see you tomorrow. >> thank you charlie. >> rose: al hunt will be joined again tomorrow night, bloomberg as well as on the public television program. i look forwardtor that. back in a moment, we'll talk about what happened with respect to yemen and the potential bombs that were being sent by airmail to the united states. stay with us. >> rose: we continue now with
the intercepted cargo bombs originating in yemen. the plot is the third terrorist attempt connected to that country in less than two years. both bombs hidden inside printer cartridges were intended to detonate in flight. u.s. officials have identified the main suspect as ibrahim hassan al-asiri, al qaeda's chief bomb maker in yemen. the bbc reported the tipoff to the plot came from a former al qaeda member and guantanamo bay detainee. he turned himself into saudi authorities last month. joining me from washington, mark mazzetti of the "new york times" and david ignatius of the "washington post." i'm pleased to have both of them here. i'll begin with mark who's been writing about this as well. what's the status of the investigation? what are the questions that they are in hot pursuit of this? >> well, they still don't know exactly who was behind the operation. they firmly suspect it was the work of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, which is the al qaeda affiliate in yemen and they suspect that probably some of the senior leadership of that group and asiri, the bomb maker
you mentioned, may have, in fact constructed the two bombs. but as of yet, they don't have anyone in custody. the person that they arrested over the weekend they released because they found out her identity had been stolen and was used to actually send the two packages. so right now they're still kind of short on leads. other than that, they still have to figure out exactly how the bombs were meant to be set off at which point they were meant to be set off. so there's still a lot of questions. >> rose: they believe they were intended to explode in mid-flight but they're not convinced necessarily that's 100% correct? >> that's right. the... what's emerging today is that both bombs appear to be set to timers rather than some sort of cell phone trigger which has led them to believe that probably they would have been timed for some kind of a transatlantic flight on the try the united states. the other thing is that the addresses, the final addresses of the packages had fictitious
names and addresses where they were once synagogues in chicago but with synagogues that are no longer there. it's unclear whether the packages would have even been delivered. so this is leading them to think that maybe there were... the bombs were intended to go off sometime mid-flight. >> rose: so david, what does this say to intelligence officials at the c.i.a. and elsewhere? homeland security, about where this struggle with terrorism is? >> well, it says first of all that this is a very nimble and adaptive adversary. these package bombs are using an explosive, the same explosive that abdulmutallab, the christmas day bomber, used that is almost impossible to detect using conventional screening or sniffer dogs. so it's that sort of diabolical explosive device they're going
to have to obviously think of new ways to try to detect it. but what this plot and its discovery shows you is that intelligence is really the best and sometimes the only hope of dealing with these plots. had the saudis not had some kind of source that was able to tip them off and then the saudi intelligence promptly notified the united states and others, this plomight have gone forward. as mark says, we can't really know when they planned to detonate these bombs one intelligence official said to me today that al qaeda in the arabian peninsula which is the formal name for this yemen-based group wants to in his words mess with us any way they can. they saw the consternation that the christmas day bombing produced even though it failed. and i think they must be hoping
that in the wake of this, even though this one failed, people will begin shutting down the cargo handling system in the middle east and qlurp and that you have economic damage even though the bombs never went off. but they are a ver clever, adaptive enemy. >> rose: mark, what do we know about the source that the saudis had that led them to this. >> well, not a whole lot right now. i think it's still unclear exactly who the source was. there was a report today that someone in saudi custody who turned himself in several weeks ago may have been the source. however itoes raise questions. they have very specific information about packages on their way to the united states. would someone who had turned themselves in several weeks ago really have had any detailed information? so it might be that he alerted saudi authorities that al qaeda in the arabian peninsula was looking to try to send packages to the united states, but there
must have been another tip or some other piece of intelligence that was more specific. so the contours of this are still unclear. it's unclear whether this person who had, in fact, turned himself in is, indeed, involved. >> rose: and, david give us the yemen sort of landscape with respect to how intelligence authorities see and see its danger to the united states other than the point you made that they're prepared to be more aggressive and to pursue different tactics than, say, osama bin laden might be thinking of in europe. >> well, the first complication with yemen is that it has very volatile erratic leader in president salah. he's been more cooperative from the u.s. standpoint over the last year after having dismissed earlier u.s. warnings. taking the lead at present in our efforts to combat al qaeda in yemen is our special forces,
the joint special operations command and they took over the lead here from the c.i.a. which had been running the show and had been working with yemeni forces, there was a story in the "wall street journal" this morning saying that maybe the lead would switch back to the c.i.a. if the yemeni government decided it was more convenient to have this one done on a clandestine basis by our intelligence agency which would be working with the same operatives. i'm told that you'd think yemen's not... a pakistan-size country so you think it would be possible but by now to have located the cell leaders of al qaeda there and pinpointed them and gone after them, we certainly have a lot of resources focused on that. but it's tough. this is a tribal society in which people are easy to hide if there they're of convene y'all arab tribe.
as one person said to me, we can find them but staying focused on them long enough to be able to take action has been very difficult. but i think we can look for an attempt to escalate this, to really go after these people over the next few weeks. >> rose: what about, mark, anwar al-awlaki? >> well, they september that any plot from yemen that involves an attack against the united states probably involves al-awlaki. al-awlaki is an american citizen he's a radical cleric who has, according to intelligence officials, taken on an increased level of prominence in the organization. he's certainly familiar with the united states. so so there's a belief that al-awlaki probably had some hand in it but, again it's a little bit of speculation and, you know al-awlaki has has been put on a kill list by the c.i.a. and
they're trying to find him and capture or kill him, which is certainly rare, him being an american citizen. but he is that important in the minds of american initials as a leader of this organization. >> rose: what can you add to that, david? >> well, he's a tough person in part because as an american he understands us. at least that's the view of the u.s. intelligence analysts. he knows our vulnerabilities. he targets these operations cleverly. i think he's very visible because he writes and talks a lot. he's an internet personality. but i think that our intelligence agencies believe that there are others who are deeper underground who have closer links to al qaeda central as it's usually called. leadership, bin laden and saw saw in the tribal areas who may be the more decisive operational personalities. and then there's this bomb maker who's obviously extremely clever and is able to use the toughest
materials to detect in fashioning these bombs. so they put together kind of ad hoc over the last year, 18 months, a pretty aggressive and effective organization. >> rose: what's the lesson of all this, mark? >> well, the lesson that that the way al qaeda works or al qaeda affiliate groups work is that you try to go at them in one place and they pop up in another place in... almostas lethal a form. here we are for the last two years the c.i.a. has been pretty much bludgeoning the organization in pakistan with this escalation in drone strikes and they think that they've done a pretty good job of crippling leadership there and all of a sudden we're hearing more about yemen and a group that's increasing in power and sophistication and so then they have to sort of worry about shifting resources to yemen.
the whack-a-mole analogy is sometimes used but it's something that... i mean it shows that al qaeda or al qaeda-like groups are going to be with us for a while. >> rose: the c.i.a. or whoever will change in terms of being more aggressive now, david? >> well, i think the level of aggressivety has been pretty high as it is. i think they'll continue with that. the question who have will take the operational lead in yemen-- the c.i.a. or the special forces-- is a question the people are trying to sort out. i think mark is right about the basic lesson. this is a tough adversary. we are in a nasty fight, it isn't going away. it's nine years after the september 11 attacks. we've had years of reports from our intelligence agencies that we've got al qaeda on the run, they're down to aew hundred,
they're down to... sometimes they'll say only a few dozen in core al qaeda but they keep on being able to operate. they have this command and control through the internet which is more robust than we realized. they metastasize. they sproud in new places with fairly independent operational ability and this ain't going away any time soon. >> i think it's also worth pointing out, though, and maybe the heartening thing is that what they're trying to do here is hardly september 11. i means this two bombs sent to possibly blow up cargo planes and then they would do damage their there could be losses of life but it's attacks that are a much lower scale of sophistication than september 11 with potentially a lot... significantly fewer casualties. so that is one thing you may be able to take as a positive. >> rose: if, in fact, this had
been a suicide bomber on a commercial plane, this would have been detected? >> if it was a suicide bomber on a... it's unclear. as we saw on christmas day, there was a suicide bomber on a commercial plane where a person about which the u.s. intelligence community had a decent amount of information about and yet he was still allowed to board the plane. the only reason the bomb didn't go off was because the bomb was faulty. so there are still questions about the ability of the system to detect this. >> what i kept hearing from intelligence officials in the u.s. and overseas over the last few days is that the effects of this latest terror wave depend in large part of the public reaction. and if people overreact to this, the economic damage, even though no bombs went off, will be significant. so in a funny way the focus is on the public in the u.s. and
europe because we are the target. >> rose: has the president handled this well, david? >> i think the president had it about right. i think it was appropriate for them to go on air. i think that... we haven't talked about the terror plots against europe but there's been a real effort on the one hand not to talk about them, on the other to issue travel warnings where appropriate. but this is a multifront war. i think obama has tried... he doesn't talk about the war on terror. he doesn't try to politicize it a la george bush. you know, as the war heats up with different fronts and faces, it will be harder for obama to keep a low profile. >> rose: thank you very much, david. thank you, mark. >> thank you. >> rose: ted sorensen died on sunday from complications resulting from a stroke. he was 82. he was first hired as a
legislative aide to newly elected senator john f. kennedy. he ultimately became one of the president's most influential advisors. washington reporters labeled him "j.f.k.'s intellectual alter ego." their collaboration helped define kennedy's narrative and legacy. he wrote some of the president's most famous speeches including his inaugural address which contained the iconic passage "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." over the years, ted sorensen appeared on this program five times. here's an excerpt from one of our conversations. looking at president kennedy, what were his flaws in your judgment? what were his shortcomings? >> for the first time in my life i discuss in this book his personal conduct and the fact that he was not as true as he should have been to his marriage vows and i don't approve of that. but that never detracted from
his public service and no ways did any of that misconduc diminish or interfere with his accomplishments. the resolution of the cuban missile crisis, without firing a shot. the reversal of this country's centuries-long discrimination against people because of skin color. the decision to go to the moon and thereby galvanize a lagging u.s. space program. the innovations like the peace corps and mental health, mental retardation. that's what kennedy stands for. >> rose: what did you know about those other... the personal conduct at the time. >> i wasn't a fly on the wall. i didn't know anything directly. i had some ideas, suspicions, but i was there as a policy
advisor and speech draftsman. i was not there as his judge. >> rose: well, it is said about president kennedy that he-- unlike many people-- made a very sharp distinction between his professional colleagues, staff, and his personal life and social friends that that was very different. >> that's true. i was not part of his social circle. didn't bother me in the slightest. i came from a totally different background. i wouldn't have been all that comfortable in his social circle as i point out in the book. my ambition was to help make him the greatest president in the united states by advising and assisting on policy and program and politics so i do not take part in the social circle and this didn't bother me at all. >> rose: and the great tragedy of your life is that it was cut short and did not have a chance
to come to all the possibilities that it offered? >> that was the great tragedy of my life and, again, for the first time i recount in detail that it's still agonizing for me to recount what that first day and those first weeks were like. but... >> rose: what were they like? >> the world goes on and my life went on and my public service went on only to see an unbelievable repeat of that horror when bobby kennedy was shot down at a time when i was deeply involved in his campaign. but even then i have been so fortunate. i had a fascinating international law practice that took me all over the world, that enabled me to know and sometimes even advise presidents and prime ministers, leaders of all kinds. and that was fun and... not to